The foundation repair business is a seasonal business and has peak demand during hot, dry summers. The demand shrinks dramatically during the winter months putting a strain on foundation contractors to maintain labor and staff levels. And rain and flood events can bring all work to a standstill for weeks. Making payroll during these leaner times is a challenge for all cyclical and seasonal businesses.
One of the observations made by Mr. Dawson is the cost of foundation repair compared to the value of the house. Owners of lower value houses simply cannot afford or justify a major repair expense. The result is that these houses will continue to deteriorate and will leave the housing stock sooner than expected.
“One of the biggest changes I have seen in the foundation business during my time here is the new demand to lift houses out of the flood plain. Houston has grown so much and covered so much water absorbing soil with concrete and asphalt that flooding has become one of the major risk factors for homeowners. Houston’s floods in 2015 and 2016 were wake-up calls. But Hurricane Harvey in 2017 forced everyone in the country to recognize the multiple problems leading to massive flooding that lasted for weeks,” said Mr. Dawson, “Those homeowners who feel their homes have significant value, and have the funds for a house lift, are raising their homes 4, 6, 8, and 10 feet above the original foundations.”
Most of the key staff at the Dawson headquarters in Houston has been with the company for ten years or more. Mr. Dawson realizes he will have to retire at some point and therefore he is grooming one of his sons to manage the business in the future.
The future of the foundation repair business is bright in Texas and Houston in particular. Mr. Dawson stresses that home builders continue to build “minimally functional” foundations that are inadequate to resist the natural forces of the area’s clay soils. Clay soils expand and contract with changes in moisture levels and this can damage any foundation. He pointed out that commercial slab foundations have far, far fewer foundation issues than residential foundations because they are built thicker and contain more steel rebar.
“Another change I have seen in my 35 years in the business is that concrete slab foundations are experiencing damage earlier and the damage is more significant. Usually homes did not display significant foundation cracks until 10 to 20 years of age. Today it is not uncommon to see foundation damage at 5 to 10 years of age. I attribute this to slab foundations that are built too thin, the use of inferior post tension cables instead of steel rebar, and extreme weather conditions. And until recently Houston never had home foundations under water for two or three weeks,” commented Mr. Dawson, “so as long as home builders continue to build minimally functional foundations in flood plains there will be plenty of foundation repair business for the next 200 years.”
Dawson Foundation Repair
6906 Chetwood Dr, Houston, TX 77081